- My ex and I bonded over our love of reading during our relationship.
- After we broke up, we stayed friends. I began dating a guy who loved mysteries like my ex and I did.
- My ex and my new guy know about each other. I’m basically in a book club with both of them.
“What are you reading?” was the question that made me decide to go on another date with N. We sat across from each other in a Thai restaurant talking about books over curry and pineapple rice. As he described a Ruth Ware mystery he’d just read, I pulled out my phone and added the title to my cart in the ThriftBooks app.
I recommended Jennifer McMahon’s “Winter People,” a dark literary novel that wrestles with the moral issue of how far humans would go to see a dead loved one for one last time. We moved on to dissecting the archetypes in “Harry Potter,” our mutual love of books crowding out the awkwardness of those first few dates with someone you barely know. When the restaurant closed, we still had more to talk about.
In the five months N and I ended up dating, our mutual love of reading flowed into countless conversations. We shared books we each loved, texting to ask which part the other was on, always careful not to spoil the ending. When he moved across the country for work, we remained friends, frequently texting about books we’d discovered. I recommended “Kill Your Darlings,” and he countered with “The Plot.”
I accidentally started a ‘book club’ with him and my new partner
Then I met S. On our third date, I was running late. He waited outside the restaurant unbothered because it turned out that, like me, he always had a paperback with him — in this case, Jodi Picoult’s “Mad Honey.” I stopped for a moment before approaching him, enjoying the sight of an attractive guy immersed in a book.
I soon discovered that S shared the same love of mysteries and dark literary fiction that N and I did. When I told him about “Winter People,” he devoured it, relishing the setting of a spooky cabin in the woods as much as I had. Then he let me borrow his copy of Gillian Flynn’s “The Grownup.” I fell in love with Flynn’s dark humor and sharp prose. An informal and somewhat accidental book club was born; I began recommending S’s favorites to N, and vice versa.
S loved the creepy vibe of “Normal,” a novel written from a serial killer’s point of view. I mentioned the book to N and offered “Gone Girl,” S’s suggestion. N read “The Sun Down Motel.” I read it and then raved about its setting, a haunted motel, as well as the jaw-dropping twist at the end, to S — without spoiling the ending, of course — which caused him to stay up late finishing the last chapters.
When I met both N and S, discovering our mutual taste in books felt like living in a foreign country and suddenly meeting someone who spoke my native tongue. Though N and S have never met, they know of each other. When N moved across the country, we texted and had video calls about the annoyance of having to use dating apps again. We’d talk after each date the other went on, analyzing what went well and what didn’t. N was happy for me when I met S.
My new guy wasn’t threatened by my friendship
I mentioned N to S after a few dates. I valued the friendship N and I had built over countless texts and shared novels. I wanted to be sure that the guy I dated respected my unconventional friendship and wouldn’t feel jealous. S responded with kindness and understanding, further cementing my desire to see him again.
I’m currently reading Flynn’s “Sharp Objects” after S recommended it. I recently texted S my guess about the identity of the murderer. He sent me an emoji with a zipper across the mouth, which made me want to rush to finish it to see whether my guess was correct. We’ll talk about it on our next date, then watch the miniseries together. Later, I plan to recommend it to N.
Neither N nor S mind that half the books I recommend come from someone else I’ve dated. The three of us share the same philosophy: A good book should always be shared, no matter the source.
A love of books led to a plot twist
Through texts and over dinners, I’ll commiserate with each of them when characters we love die. We talk about the shock of a good plot twist — how we never saw it coming but should have. We follow the unspoken readers’ code of never disclosing the murderer’s identity when we read thrillers, no matter how much the other person begs. We share the deep satisfaction of seeing another person fall in love with the same book that we did.
I hope that my friendship with N and my relationship with S both stand the test of time, like a classic novel. When I began dating, I wasn’t searching for a serious relationship. Eight years after my divorce from a man whom I rarely discussed books with, I simply wanted to meet new people and inject some semblance of romance into my life.
In a plot twist, the joy of discovering books and talking about one of my favorite topics with people I care for has turned out to be a solid foundation for my relationships.